Vision-Ease Lens, the optical products division of BMC Industries, reports a negative operating margin of 0.5 percent for the the 3rd quarter ended Sept. 30, as compared to a positive margin of 6.7 percent in the same period a year ago, as the division's sales declined by 24 percent to $25,604,000. Polycarbonate lens sales dropped by $3.2 million, lower-margin plastic lenses were off by $2.6 million and glass lens sales fell by $0.8 million.

Lens product margins improved thanks to improved manufacturing performance. Demand remained at the same levels as a year ago, but a string of problems related to the consolidation of production into two facilities, one in Minnesota and the other one in Indonesia, resulted in service interruptions and adversely affected sales. However, the group says it succeeded in restoring product fill rates to excellent levels, and service performance should reach a record thanks to the implementation of a new integrated planning system in the 1st half of 2003. New products will be launched in mid-2003.

BMC's total revenues fell by 22 percent to $57.4 million, and the group recorded a loss of $4.2 million, which compares with a loss of $4.1 million in the same period a year ago, or $3.8 million on a comparable pro-forma basis. The group managed to reschedule its credit line through May of 2004, while reducing it to $145 million. Total debt has declined by $28.9 million to $113.2 million since last Dec. 31 and it should go down further in the 4th quarter.

Meanwhile, Vision-Ease has obtained ISO 9001 certification for its polycarbonate R&D, manufacturing and distribution operations in Minnesota, getting recognition for the management systems adopted throughout the facility's supply chain.